Good day team,
This past week, I was working with a management team focusing on their individual strengths and teaching them how these strengths fit into the four domains of leadership – executing, influencing, building relationships and strategic thinking. These are the skills that leaders and managers need to effectively do their jobs and are the subject of this week’s challenge.
This material comes from a book entitled “Strengths-based Leadership” by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie. After many years of polling for-profit and not-for-profit organizations, the Gallup organization determined that the four domains of leadership are where successful leaders and managers spend their time. The book includes the StrengthsFinder assessment – a brief test used to identify an individual’s five top strengths and map them into the leadership domains. For example, if you have “achiever” as a strength, i.e. you like to get stuff done – then that strength is likely to show up in your top five and is an executing strength.
Finding your top five strengths is the first step. Taken further, discovering where your strengths line up in the four domains gives you an excellent way of determining how you like to lead others. It also gives your people a great way to understand your strengths and knowledge of how you apply them in the workplace.
Over the past 30 years, I have found that the American workforce has moved steadily away from an authoritarian style of management (command and control), to a much more influential style of management (inspire and support). Most organizations used to be run by a bossy boss – almost always a man. Bossy bosses have autocratic, very direct styles that offer their reports very little support. Nowadays, it is common to find leaders of both sexes using a coaching style of leadership, one with emphasis on directing and supporting their people. Among the best leaders, you will also find a strong dose of inspiration that energizes and engages team members.
Here’s an article about the importance of influencing others in a work environment which I think best describes this shift in management style. It’s author is Beth Armknecht Miller, Founder and President of Executive Velocity, an Atlanta based leadership advisory firm.
“Webster’s Dictionary defines a “leader, as a person who has commanding authority or influence”. I would argue that in the 21st century it’s all about influence, not authority. If a leader only has authority and is unable to influence others, then his or her leadership will be short lived. And, with the shortage of talent, leaders need to create sustainability in an organization.
“Think about those leaders and individual contributors in your organization, whether for profit or not for profit, who may not have the title of VP, Director, or Manager yet they have followers because of their influence with others. These are the people who others listen to and respect but don’t have the title providing them with the authority to lead. They are able to use specific behaviors that align with the situation that will get others to change behaviors, opinions, attitudes, goals, needs and values.
“What are critical methods to leadership influence?
“It is important to understand that influence much like leadership, is dependent on the situation that requires influence. It may be that you are trying to influence someone higher in the organization, a peer, or a direct report. All of these are different situations in themselves. Other types of situations where influence may be needed include:
- Change to project plans
- Support of proposals by upper management
- Agree to new assignments and tasks
- Provide necessary information in a timely fashion
- Stop ineffective or negative behaviors
“The Power Use Model outlined by Anita Hall, Extension Educator and Leverne Barrett, Extension Leadership Specialist of the University of Nebraska – Lincoln Extension, depicts someone’s choice of influence tactics in terms of the ‘softness’ versus ‘hardness’ of the tactic. The spectrum relates to the freedom the tactic leaves the person being influenced to decide either to yield or to resist the influence attempts.
“Hard tactics give individuals less freedom than soft tactics. They are perceived as more forceful and push the person to comply versus support. Hard tactics include “exchange”, “legitimating”, “pressure”, “assertiveness”, “upward appeal”, and “coalitions”. Soft tactics are considered thoughtful and constructive and pull the person to make the necessary change. Soft tactics include “personal appeal”, “consultation”, “inspirational appeal”, “ingratiation”, and “rational persuasion”. It is important to note that soft tactics tend to provide more lasting change because they create an emotion of support versus compliance by the person being influenced.
“And, there are certain methods when used to influence that are generally unsuccessful. These tactics are often associated with a leader who has the authority but lacks influence. Autocratic leaders will often make demands, threats or intimidation, which will generate short-term change but no support.
“When would this tactic be useful? In an emergency, demands are often necessary. A leader needs to have people move quickly when the office is on fire or the plant has been exposed to dangerous chemicals.
“Yet, for the most part, when soft tactics are used more than hard tactics, such as demands and threats, a leader can build influence capital. From my experience with leaders, those who are highly influential use these two tactics more than others:
- Inspirational appeal – a request or proposal that arouses emotions and enthusiasm by appealing to others values and ideals, or by increasing their confidence in being successful.
- Consultation – includes others’ in making a decision or planning how to implement a change that impacts them.
“So what if you’re a leader with authority, you’ve got the title, how do you know whether or not you have influence with the people you are leading? My suggestion to leaders is to start taking an audit of the methods they use to influence. How much time are they using the consultation and inspirational appeal methods to influence others? And if the percent is low, how are you going to increase your soft tactic influence?”
This week, consider the effectiveness of your management style. Are you using more hard tactics rather than soft. i.e. directing or supporting? Perhaps, you become impatient easily when others aren’t working fast enough and you become pushy, bossy or autocratic. Maybe your soft tactics have become too supportive and not direct enough and your people are confused about what you really want from them.
Try achieving balance when it comes to being direct and supportive. People need instruction but they also need emotional support to help them stay committed. You may be getting stuff done but your autocratic management style might be breeding resentment and disrespect within your organization. Try using some influencing techniques instead. You may find it works more effectively by attracting and inspiring your team members to the task at hand.
Have a good week!
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